4 strikes in a week! That’s what the POA walkout at HMP Leeds in Armley as part of a national series of prison gate meetings, and bus drivers in Unite in Hunslet and Bramley along with Tuesday’s national teachers strike and UCU strikes at Leeds Beckett and Leeds College of Art add up to.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
Bus drivers carried out their third day of strike action in their ongoing dispute with First Bus. First who made £14.5m in Leeds last year, say they can’t afford to pay a 36p pay increase backdated to when negotiations broke down in May. Instead they have offered a series of pay rises that will only start later this year, and have spent thousands on trying to break Unite members strike action.
The latest twist, is that 13 drivers (plus another one who has since resigned from the job) have been suspended for 3 weeks for comments on social media during the dispute. Scandalously, this includes the local Unite Branch Secretary!
At meetings later that day, members decided to take up an offer to re-enter meaningful negotiations with management.
Around 100 Prison Officers Association members, on the other hand, walked out for a gate meeting at HMP Leeds to express their opposition to chronic understaffing in prisons caused by staffing shortages. Staff assigned to Offender Management work are being put back on the wings, causing chaos for Probation Officers and others involved in managing sentences.
POA members told us about their frustrations, expected to juggle responsibilities to keep prisons running, whilst being understaffed and paid well below what their responsibilities should entail.
The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has failed to seriously discuss ‘prison reform’ with the POA, a report produced last year has only in the last day found it’s way into the hands of the POA. At the meeting, comments were made by speakers linking the ‘reforms’ to the prison service to those affecting education and health. Prisons will be expected to function like Academies and Foundation Hospitals, effectively attempting to break up a national service.
All the disputes this week have highlighted the anger of working people at policies which put profits first – whether that be moves to break-up national services (and the terms and conditions that go with it) in education and prisons, or with a private operator that is ripping off passengers and staff alike. This anger needs organising in a direction to fight to defend and improve conditions in the workplace, but beyond that, organising for a socialist change to run society for the needs of all, rather than a few at the top.